Calif. Retirement Home Investigated, Nurse Refused CPR To Dying Woman

9:39 PM, Mar 4, 2013   |    comments
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MERRIFIELD, Va. (WUSA9) - Local health care providers are disturbed over the handling of a elderly woman who collapsed at a California retirement facility.

A dramatic 911 call between a Bakersfield, California emergency dispatcher and a nurse at a retirement home has stirred questions about all senior living communities.. In the recording, a nurse can be heard refusing to give CPR to a dying woman. When the dispatcher asks, "Is she breathing?" the caller replies, "'Is she breathing?' Barely."

Inside the Glenwood Gardens Retirement Facility, an 87-year-old woman lay unresponsive. But when the 911 dispatcher says to start CPR, the nurse on the other end of the line refuses. The nurse can be heard saying, "Yeah, we can't do CPR at this facility."

The dispatcher then says, "OK, then hand the phone to the passerby. If you can't do it, I need, hand it to the passerby, I'll have her do it. Or if you've got any citizens there, I'll have them do it."

"No, no, it's not," the nurse says.

The dispatcher said, "Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone, please. ... This woman's not breathing enough. She's going to die if we don't get this started."

As the seconds tick by, the dispatcher tries desperately to convince the nurse to do something. The dispatcher can be heard saying, "I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient. Is there anybody that works there that's willing to do it?"

"We can't do that," the nurse says. "That's what I'm trying to say." "Are we just going to let this lady die?" the dispatcher says.
"Well, that's why we're calling 911," the nurse replies.

The dispatcher says, "We can't wait. She can't wait right now. She is stopping breathing. Is there anybody there that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

The nurse replies, 'Um, not at this time."

By the time medics arrived, it was too late. The Glenwood Gardens Retirement Facility released a statement saying it's "conducting a thorough review" but that, "...our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives."

WUSA9 spoke to health professionals at several local facilities about their policies. At the Goodwin House,  Erickson Living Retirement Communities and Alzheimer's Family Day Center, officials say their policies require staff to perform CPR. 

"When you hear a story like that, it is very shocking. That someone, especially a nurse, would not be performing any type of measure and didn't have a sense of urgency in their voice, or trying to find someone else that would," said Joel Bednoski, the Executive Director of the The Alzheimer's Family Day Center in Merrifield, Virginia.

 The Day Center provides daycare for people with memory impairment. No client has ever collapsed from a heart attack, but if they did, any staff person could help says Bednoski. They've all been trained in CPR.

"We are licensed with the Virginia Department of Social Services and they require that all of our staff be First Aid (trained) and that we have a certain number of staff that are CPR certified per shift. But we go above and beyond that and make sure that all of our staff are certified," said Bednoski.

He and other local health care professionals wondered if the 87 year old woman who died in California, may have had a DNR, do-not-resuscitate order. It's something The family day center asks about when new clients come in.

"We deal with people with various forms of memory impairment.  If someone does have an episode where they require CPR, and they are resuscitated, they might not be back at the same level that they were before.  They're going to be a different baseline," said Bednoski.

But, according to CBS News and KGET-TV, the patient did not have a do-not-resuscitate order.

The elderly woman was identified by KGET-TV as 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless. according to KGET-TV. Bayless' daughter told KGET that she was a nurse and was satisfied with her mother's care at Glenwood Gardens, the station reported.

The LA Times is also reporting that Bakersfield police are investigating the Glenwood Gardens Retirement Facility for it's handling of an elderly resident who died after a nurse declined to perform CPR.